Wraps, Carriers and Slings- Oh my!

Baby wearing. It’s not using your baby as a hat or sweater, as my husband initially may have thought!

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The term “Babywearing” refers to using a carrier to hold your baby- either out and about or at home. And I love it! Why? Using a carrier, rather than your arms- has a number of benefits.

  • It frees up your hands for other tasks while still meeting the need or desire of your little one to be held close.
  • It’s a means of transport- prams aren’t always practical and are sometimes a hindrance (though they certainly have their place!).
  • It is also often a more comfortable way to carry your baby or child than in your arms- especially for longer periods of time as good carriers and woven wraps distribute weight evenly meaning less strain on your shoulders.
  • It offers reassurance and feelings of security to your child- less over stimulation leads to less melt-downs, in my experience.
  • Slings are handy for breastfeeding. I can (and quite often do) wander my local grocery store while breastfeeding in a sling- multi-tasking win!

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A side-benefit of babywearing is that children who are used to being worn want to “dollywear”- the main benefit being the “Awwwww” factor!

There is research that shows that wearing babies is beneficial for them, and guidelines to follow to be sure you are doing it safely and correctly and there  is a WHOLE OTHER WORLD out there of carriers that you probably never knew existed- from your basic carrier found at a chain store, to much more ergonomic structured carriers, to stretchy wraps, to wovens, to wrap conversions and to culturally traditional carriers like the rebozo, the selendang or the khanga. You can buy a selendang for $15 or spend hundreds on a high-end hand woven wrap- the choice is yours and the result is the same- a happy, secure baby or toddler that has a good view of the world as well as a parent or carer to snuggle into when the world gets a little bit too much.

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Not just for mum and dad- Babywearing is a valuable skill to pass on to older kids.

Babywearing is practiced in many cultures- Slingbabies has a great summary here with some awesome pictures from many cultures showing how they wear their babies. It’s been around a very long time and fits into my parenting philosophy (something I like to call Attachment Parenting by Default– it’s not exactly been a conscious choice but rather somewhere I’ve just kind of found myself!) It’s recommended by AP godfather Dr Sears  and also by major breastfeeding support groups like the Australian Breastfeeding Association and La Leche League. Those endorsements along with the other benefits I mentioned were enough for me. My friend Kate Crawford was introduced to babywearing when she sought help for her Post Natal Depression- here is her story which she has kindly offered to share here.

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“For the first four weeks, life with a newborn was blissful. She did nothing but eat, sleep, pee and poo. ‘This is easy!’ I thought. I was happy, in love with my bub, but even then there were warning signs. The anxiety was atrocious. When she was sleeping, I felt like someone had slipped me some speed. I couldn’t keep my feet still and I was chewing my nails like there was no tomorrow. I put it down to normal new mum nerves. I noticed I felt a little better if I could see her, so I took to keeping her bassinet on the floor in the lounge and watching over her. Impractical!

By six weeks I was a mess. Bub didn’t sleep so well in the daytime any more and was colicky and crying for a few hours every evening. I fell apart. Thoughts of failure dogged me at all times. I had ruined my life. Other mums will know the feeling you get when looking over a newborn and wondering if she’s still breathing. They lie so still! I imagine for most people it’s a sense of momentary panic and perhaps a quick test with a finger under the nose to feel the breath. For me, the intrusive thought was ‘If she’s dead, it’s fixed. I won’t have to look after her any more and I can go back to my old life.’ I know, awful.

I went to a psychologist, and she asked me if I had thought about what parenting technique I was going to use. I had no idea what she was talking about – you just keep them alive, right? She mentioned attachment parenting as helpful for the post-natal depression I was clearly suffering from. I had visions of breastfeeding a four year old (the only thing I knew about the practice) and I must have made a face, because then she got all scientific on me. She explained that the evidence showed that responding quickly to your baby’s cries with comfort and wearing your child led to happier, more secure children and significantly better outcomes for mothers with PND like me. She told me to wear my baby ALL THE TIME.

Anyone who knows me would describe me as practical, logical, perhaps the anti-hippy. Psych lady had played right into my weakness for evidence. I took her advice as a prescription and wore bub constantly, except at night when she still slept soundly in her own bed despite my fears that she would get ‘spoiled’ and refuse. I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say babywearing saved my relationship with my child, and probably my husband. I fell in love with bub all over again, and it’s hard to be anxious about a baby when you can see her sleeping soundly on your chest at all times!

Now, at nearly six months, I don’t babywear constantly any more, but only because she won’t stand for it! She wants to explore and is learning to crawl (oh dear!). If we’re out though, it’s super practical and if she’s fussy for some reason it’s still a great place for her to sleep.

Oh, and if she wants to breastfeed when she’s four then whatever!”

Have a look at the gallery I put together of some gorgeous babywearing pics shared by my baby/toddler/pre-schooler wearing friends. 

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You can find more info on your local babywearing facebook page- here are a few to start you off:

Sydney Babywearers

Perth Babywearers

Brisbane Babywearing Community

Canberra Babywearers

Darwin Babywearers Inc.

Victorian Babywearers

Tasmanian Babywearers

If you can’t find your nearest group, try asking on the Baby Wearing Buy, Sell & Swap Group – I’ve always found it to be a very helpful community!

Happy Babywearing!


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